Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Noble Place - Australian historical novel.

Blurb from my Australian historical, A Noble Place.

Australia 1850. Phillippa Noble, strong minded, spirited and adventurous, urges and encourages her parents and her twin to emigrate to the distant land of Australia to begin again. In a new country they can put their tainted past behind them, and Pippa can forget the unrequited love she felt for a distant cousin. Pippa blossoms in the new country and is determined that their horse stud will be the finest in the land. However, circumstances ensure that not all is golden. For every success, she has to bear up under the challenges of bushfire, death, the return of an old love and danger on the goldfields. Her strength is tested as she tries to find the right path to happiness, but it is the near loss of her dearest friend that makes her realise true contentment rests within her grasp and she must not let it go.

As they cleared the last of the trees at the bottom of the incline, Honey shied at a sudden movement leaping out from behind a tree. Pippa gripped the reins and swirled around, her heart in her throat. Her first thought was Aborigines, but instead Chalker stood there, grinning.
‘Good morning, Miss Noble.’ He tipped his hat ever so slightly, his smile cocksure.
Surprise and anger made her voice sharp. ‘What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at work?’
Chalker folded his arms, his manner relaxed. ‘I am working, collecting firewood.’
Honey side-stepped again before settling. Pippa looked beyond Chalker and saw a small, empty handcart. ‘Then I suggest you get about your chores, and in future do not jump out at a horse and rider. You nearly unseated me.’
‘You are far too good a rider for that, miss.’ His gaze roamed over her. He patted Honey’s flank near Pippa’s skirt, his hand inching towards her leg.
Stiffening in the saddle, Pippa glared at his insolence. ‘You are on your last warning, Chalker. Robson says you tend to shirk your duties and I have noted how many times you’ve caused trouble with the men.’
His grin widened and the tip of his fingers pressed through her skirts to touch her calf. ‘It warms me to know that you watch me.’
Pippa shivered with something close to repulsion, but not quite. She didn’t understand the hold he had over her. ‘Don’t flatter yourself.’ She jerked her leg away. ‘Move back, please.’
Chalker’s eyes narrowed as he looked up at her from under his hat brim. ‘I was thinking you might be lonely out here. It’s perfectly natural for a woman to want a man’s comfort sometimes and, should you have such needs, I’d be more than willing to ease your feminine urges. Of course it would be our secret.’
Speechless, she stared at him, her mouth opening and closing. The audacity of the man’s proposal whirled about in her mind. He’d actually spoken of it, of the silent uncomfortable attraction she would never have put into words. Spluttering and gripping the reins, she whirled Honey about in a tight circle. ‘You impertinent scum! You think I’d want you touching me?’ Relief poured from her. She laughed now, seeing the absurdity of his words. She’d never have let the likes of him come anywhere near her.
He stepped back, his expression one of distaste. ‘Don’t deny you want me. I’ve seen the way you look at me, all hungry and needy.’
Pippa blanched. Had she done that? True, she’d felt her body respond to him, but had she really looked at him with hunger? Humiliation burned her cheeks. Was she repeating her past over again by consorting with the wrong man? First Grant and now Chalker. She quivered in horror. At least Grant was a gentleman, but Chalker was a workman, her labourer. Her breakfast rose to her throat threatening to choke her.
Chalker smirked. ‘Women like you are always up for some bed sport. The fire in you needs to be quenched and I’m willing to do it for you. No one will know, I promise you.’
Outraged, Pippa leaned down from the saddle to sneer in his face. ‘You’ve no idea what women like me need! Now pack you bags and get off my property. Consider yourself fired.’ She jerked Honey into motion and thundered away.
At the stables, Pippa dismounted and, leading Honey by the reins, marched inside to Robson, who stood checking the feed barrels for vermin. In the corner, Colin forked cut grass into a stall. ‘Robson, I’ve just fired Chalker. He’s to leave the property within the hour. Can you see to it?’
‘Absolutely, miss.’ Robson stepped to take hold of Honey’s bridle. ‘It’s not before time too, miss. He’s been trouble from the first day, although he did well to hide it. I’ll personally escort him to the boundary.’
‘Pippa! Come look!’ Davy ran into the stables. ‘There’s a carriage coming with two shiny black horses with white feathers on their heads.’ He grabbed her hand and pulled her outside. ‘A carriage!’
Intrigued, Pippa frowned at Robson as he came to stand at her side. They both stared along the valley track. Indeed a large, shiny black carriage pulled by magnificent horses rumbled beside the creek towards them.
‘Who could it be?’ Pippa glanced at Robson for his input.
‘Nay, miss, I know of no one with such a carriage in this district.’
Davy jumped up and down clapping his hands. ‘It’s a prince!’
Pippa gently pushed him towards the hut. ‘Go and get your mother.’
She and Robson walked away from the service buildings and waited under the big gum tree near the footbridge. On the other side, Davy and Millie watched the carriage approach.
The driver halted the fine pair and drew the carriage to stop. The door was flung open and Gerald popped his head out. ‘Pippa!’
Pippa’s eyes widened in disbelief. ‘Father?’
Gerald exited the carriage and then handed Hilary down, and then the maid, Cissie. ‘We’re here at last!’ He shouted, reaching back into the carriage.
Hilary ran up to Pippa and hugged her. ‘It’s good to see you! Have we surprised you? How are you? Mama fainted! As soon as we started the descent into the valley, she screamed that we would all fall to our deaths and then fainted.’
Blinking rapidly to make sure of her vision, Pippa let Hilary’s words wash over her. Her family was here! She couldn’t believe it. They had sent her no word of their impending arrival. She wasn’t ready. The house wasn’t ready. She glanced at the bulk of luggage roped to the top
of the carriage and cringed at the amount. Where ever would they put it all?
‘Come, come, Esther. Pippa wishes to greet you,’ Gerald cajoled his wife out of the carriage. ‘You’re safe now, so stop your hysterics.’
Pippa stepped forward and kissed her mother’s pale cheek. ‘Welcome, Mother.’
Esther, fanning herself with a white handkerchief, sniffled. ‘What a journey, Phillippa, what a journey.’ Slowly, she raised her head and gazed about. Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open.
The heavy weight of guilt sunk Pippa’s happiness at her family’s arrival. Her mother’s rigidness confirmed her fears. She hated the valley. ‘Mother—’
‘You . . .’ Esther turned to scan the whole valley and all it contained, her eyes filling with tears. ‘Gerald . . .’ She blinked, her chest heaved as though she struggled to breathe. ‘You brought me here?’
‘How could you?’ Esther’s voice lowered in anger. ‘I’ll not spend one night in this god-forsaken backwater!’ She spun on her heel, reentered the carriage and slammed the door.


margaret blake said...

Lovely, Anne, sounds like a smashing read.

Margaret Muir said...

I know it's not easy to sell stories set in Australia, so all credit to HaleBooks for allowing Australian authors to set their stories down under.

Thinking about you today, Anne, and hoping that the bushfires in NSW are not in your area.
Those thoughts also go to the other Hale authors in Victoria and NSW.
Stay safe,

Nik said...

The story sounds intriguing and the cover has to be a winner - surely horseloving readers will snap it up!
Nik (Ross Morton)

Loren Teague said...

I have never read any of your books Anne, so looking forward to reading this one. Warm wishes, Loren Teague